Conflagration #Writephoto

Photo by Sue Vincent

Conflagration

Carnelian skies burnish the dying day just so

On the cusp of our years we awaken

Narrowed to a sliver of brilliant flame

Faithful to the fires sparked in a child’s dream

Longing for dismissed choices, second chances

A conflagration of wishes whirling, urgent

Grieve no more, my heart

Retrace your rubbled path and behold

A sacred branding of the soul

Trust that love mattered

In the final hours as

Our whispered farewells

Nudge us into ash

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the beautiful Thursday #Writephoto prompt. 

The Optometrist and the Dragon #writephoto

photo compliments of Sue Vincent

A man of science, Irvus the optometrist didn’t believe in enchantment. But a dare was a dare, and he wasn’t about to cede his convictions to a bunch of old-timers at the Pickled Sow. It was the 5th century, for Heaven’s Sake. The last known dragon had gone extinct a hundred years ago.

The climb up the scree to the cave was steeper than it appeared from a distance. His borrowed twin-bladed battle-ax weighed a ton, and if the rusted iron weren’t strapped to his back, he would have abandoned it on the dirt track below. Sweat dripped into his eyes and plastered his hair to his scalp. He renewed his determination to begin exercising, again… maybe.

Then he spotted the old skull.

His boot crunched on a human spine twisted like a skeletal snake. Farther up, a rubble of sun-bleached bones littered the loose stones below the cave’s gaping maw.

Irvus paused, tongue idly exploring the gap in his front teeth. A bear or a mountain lion, surely. Had to be since dragons didn’t exist. He wrestled out of the straps crossing his back and hefted the intimidating ax, his pluck rallying with the weapon in hand.

Other than the racket of sliding and tumbling stones, he crept silently up to the cave and peered inside. His breath hitched.

There, bathed in shadow, sat the princess that the wrinkled fellows at the Sow had dared him to rescue. A genuine princess with a perfectly forlorn face, pink lips, and crown of golden curls. She rested on a chunk of stone, her delicate frame draped in azure and emerald silks.

No dragon in sight, he hissed at her. “Psst! Over here.” She jolted up, eyes flashing with surprise. He beckoned with a frantic hand.

She glanced behind her and tiptoed toward him, careful to avoid the sunlight. “Are you a prince?” she whispered.

“No, I’m an optometrist.”

“Oh.”

“I’m here to rescue you; I think.”

“Indeed, you’re very noble. But for me to escape this horrid place, you must first slay the dragon.” She tilted her curly head toward the cave’s interior.

He arched a skeptical eyebrow. “A real dragon?”

She nodded, tears glittering in a pair of startling and beautiful gold-burnished eyes. “I’m trapped by an enchantment, captive here for all eternity or until a brave soul sets me free. Are you truly he?”

Irvus considered her predicament and decided that the whole situation was rather implausible, but there she was, an honest to god princess. She seemed sincere, and so far, he hadn’t seen anything more menacing than a rabbit. Best of all, she’d implied he was “brave.”

He sucked in a breath, stepped into the shadow, and halted. A deep snuffle of warm breath wafted over him from the black of the soot-smeared cave. His eyes adjusted rapidly due to his exceptional vision care, and he gasped. A dragon slept curled in a nest of straw among the jagged rocks.

A magnificent beast, its scales glistened in hues of azure and emerald. A serpentine tail curled around its body and webbed wings folded against its back. Curved claws glinted like shards of ice, and scimitar spikes thrust from its spine. With each restful exhale, puffs of smoke snorted from a horned snout.

The princess threaded her arm through his and gazed up at him with those disconcerting golden eyes, eyelashes fluttering like feathers. In all his years of optometry, he’d never seen eyes so… avian. “Please,” she murmured. “Slay it, free me, and you will win my heart.” She rose onto her toes and pressed her lips to his sweaty cheek.

He swallowed, kissing a pastime sorely absent from his hectic life. He gathered his faltering courage and inched toward the dragon. The slumbering monster shifted and sighed, blasting him with heated air. His hands tightened around the haft of his battle-ax, and he glanced behind him, chewing on a lip. “Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea.”

The princess winced at the pun and crept up behind him, her eyes alight with a strange glow. She waved him onward and pressed her slender hands to her heart. He faced the beast, raised his ax to his shoulder, risked another step, and kicked a stone. It rolled and clinked against a deadly claw. He froze.

The dragon’s eyelid quivered and rolled up. In a tremendous surge, the colossal beast reared. Wings unfurled and thundered against the cave’s ceiling. Its scaled tail uncoiled and swept the cave’s debris, flinging stones and raising the dust. It bared its fangs and blew a stream of fire over Irvus’s head as it scrambled back against the wall.

Irvus shrieked and turned to run. The princess met his charge and heaved him back toward the dragon. “Kill it,” she screamed. “Slay it now! Kill it.” She blocked his way out, stalked toward him, hands raised to force him into a fight. “Kill it, or I’ll be trapped here forever. You can’t leave me here.”

He thrust the ax at her. “You kill it.”

“I can’t,” she cried, shoving it back. “The enchantment won’t permit it. It must be you. Please.”

He faced the dragon, sweat drenching his body, his hands slick on the ax. The dragon writhed against the back wall, massive chest heaving. Its tail thrashed and slapped the rocks of its nest. Fire flared with each breath, burning the walls. It extended two sets of razor claws, poised for an attack or… Or warding one off?

“Kill it,” the princess urged over Irvus’s shoulder.

Irvus hesitated, mesmerized. The dragon blinked at him with wide doe eyes, the most beautiful nut-brown, liquid eyes he’d ever seen. The beast probably had a family history of healthy eye care, a diet rich in dark leafy greens and fatty cold-water fish. The smoke wasn’t good, but the cave’s shade provided protection from the sun’s damaging rays.

“What’s the matter?” the princess cried. “Kill it! Hurry! Don’t leave me here. Break the spell.”

He hefted the battle-ax. The dragon looked at him with those soft chestnut eyes. The heavy ax head slipped in his sweaty hands. He tightened his grip and raised it over his head to fling at the beast. As much as he cringed at the thought, he couldn’t forsake the princess to a cave-bound eternity.

“Yes,” the princess hissed behind him.

The dragon shuttered its sublime eyes, lowered its scaled head, and stilled as if awaiting the fatal strike.

“No, I can’t.” Irvus’s arms relaxed. Suspended behind his head for the killing blow, the heavy weapon sagged. The weight of its iron blade pulled him backward. His balance teetered, the haft slipping through his fingers. He lurched over the stones, struggling to find his footing, and the weapon slid free. A gasp and thump behind him loosed a shudder that rattled his bones.

He spun around and gaped at the dead princess, the ax blade embedded in her forehead. He slapped his hands over his mouth in a panic.

Then her body began to bloat, clothes splitting at the seams. Irvus stumbled backward as scales erupted on her skin and a spiked tail snaked from her back, elongating across the rubble. The princess’s fingers lengthened, joints swelled, and nails curled into crystalline claws. Her face contorted, nose and jaw jutting into a horned snout. Limbs bulged and crooked, every inch of her transformed except the sightless golden eyes staring at the ceiling.

“Thank you.”

He yelped and pivoted. A brown-eyed woman sat on the black stones of the dragon’s nest, her human nakedness wrapped in a blanket of glittering azure and emerald scales.

“You broke the enchantment,” she said. “You set me free.”

“You’re the princess?”

“A librarian,” she said. “Are you a prince?”

“No, I’m an optometrist.”

She gathered the serpentine skin around her and stood. “And the kindest man I’ve ever met.”

He smiled, puffed up his chest, and offered his hand. “Are you ready to go?”

They walked to the sharp rim of sunlight at the cave’s entrance where he rearranged the dragon’s pelt to shade her face. The gray-beards at the Pickled Sow might accept his tale about accidentally slaying a dragon, but they’d never believe those perfect brown beauties, not until they spied them with their very own eyes.

***

This rather long and silly story was inspired by Sue Vincent’s Thursday #writephoto prompt: Shelter

 

At The Mirror: Their Whiteness

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At the Mirror today: an exquisite piece of flash fiction by Kelvin Knight.

Please click through to comment ❤

Their Whiteness

by Kelvin M. Knight

He pirouetted through oceanic whiteness, leaving ripples of himself. Drifting through these, she gasped at the softness of his touch. A touch bursting with promise: that dance he’d promised her but she’d always been too busy to accept. Back then. Back there. Where cares were weighty. Where duty outweighed sin. Where their love went unrecognised. Because of him. Because…

Continue Reading: Their Whiteness

Fallen Angel

The Carrot Ranch flash fiction contests came to an end in December, and I’m delighted to share my final entry. This last challenge involved 5 steps! Don’t feel you have to read them all, but… it’s a good example of how different 1st drafts (step 1) are from final drafts (step 5). You can see how crappy my first drafts are. Gak!

Challenge #8: 

In 5 steps, write about a hero’s transformation after facing a crisis. Each step is its own flash fiction, but it is the evolution of a single story.

The Rules

Step One: In step one free-write for 5 minutes. Stop even if it’s incomplete. No Editing! 

Step Two: Edit your free-write into a 99-word story.

Step Three: Edit your 99-word story into a 59-word story.

Step Four: Edit your 59-word story into a 9-word story.

Step Five: Transform it into a 599-word final story in three acts: beginning, middle, and end.

Step 1: 5-Minute free write – no editing allowed

Tris stood before the archangels, with his plea. “How can I truly know love, if I have nothing to compare it to?” To know something, doesn’t one need to know it’s alternatives?”

“You wish to be reviled?” asked Gabriel.

I wish to understand love in its fullest form, and if that is to be scorned, then scorn me.”

“As you wish”

Tris plummeted through the air, white feathers in flames, this skin blazing, cracking, charring, sloughing off all that was beauty. His eyes filled with fire and he plummeted to the sea with a trail of smoke.

The woman wading in the waves saw his fall and ran into the waves to save him. But when she saw the charred pinions of his skeletal wings, the blackened bloody flesh and the scarlet eyes, she screamed and ran panic driving her to flee. Webbed wings, quilled pinions.

He stalked her, haunted her, black wings unfurling in the corner of her room. What do you want? She screamed. “What do you want from me?

“Love he croaked, and the sound of his voice scared even him.

She held her pillow, curled in her bed. “If you love me, you would leave me alone.”

The demand stunned him. How could he love her under such restrictions? He knew then what it meant to be reviled and his wings curled around him, relegating him to shadows.

Step 2: Edit it into a 99-word story

He plummeted through heaven’s void, white wings in flames, skin blazing. Sloughing his beauty, he plunged into the sea.

A woman beheld his charred pinions and fled the waves. He haunted her moonlit nights, wandered her dreams until she survived on pills and prayers, woke in a sea of sweat, and screamed, “What do you want from me?”

“Only love.”

She curled around her pillow. “If you loved me, you would leave me alone.”

His breath caught. How did one love if banished by love? His burned wings enfolded him, condemning him to shadows, for love her, he did.

Step 3: Edit it into a 59-word story

He haunted her moonlit nights, wandered her dreams until she survived on white pills and prayers, woke in a sea of sweat, and screamed, “What do you want from me?”

“Only Love.”

She curled around her pillow. “If you loved me, you’d leave me alone.”

His burned wings enfolded him, condemning him to shadows, for love her, he did.

Step 4: Edit it into a 9-word story

For love, his burned wings enfolded him in shadow.

Step 5: The final 599-word story – a hero’s journey

Fallen Angel

He pled before Hadraniel. “How does one value love if one has nothing to compare? How does one know light without darkness?”

“You choose to be reviled?” the archangel asked.

“To experience love in its fullest form.”

Thus, he plummeted through heaven’s void, white wings in flames, skin blazing, cracking, sloughing his beauty in a trail of ash. A shooting star, his eyes brimmed with fire, and he plunged into the sea.

A woman wading in the waves ran into the surf to save him. But when she beheld the charred pinions of his skeletal wings, blackened scabs of skin, and irises licked by fire, terror pooled in her eyes. Her screams echoed the shrill keen of circling birds.

She fled the sea, drove with the wind’s howling, and spun through the city’s roiling anonymity. He hunted her with wings unfurled, bristling with burned quills. And each time he drew near enough to speak his heart’s yearning, fear prevailed and she failed to hear.

He spurned the sun to haunt her by moonlight when wounded souls melded with the dark. Cloaked in smoke, he inhabited the seams of her room and whispered love’s longing in her sleep. He wandered her dreams until she survived on white pills and prayers and woke in a sea of sweat. “What do you want?” she screamed. “What do you want from me?”

“Only love.”

Thunder rumbled in his voice, and she curled around her pillow. “If you loved me, you would leave me alone.”

His breath caught. How could this be? How did one love if banished by love? What had he chosen? Burned and broken wings enfolded him, condemning him to shadows, for love her, he did.

For years, he watched her spiral in shouting matches and botched marriages, estrangements, peals of pleading, and regrets for promises shattered. He kept his word and hid in antiseptic halls with chemical restraints, through prescriptions that muted the sun and blurred the hours into strings of dull-seasoned days. Through vodka and heroin, overdoses and scars carved into her skin.

Until fear surrendered its grip.

He lingered in the corner when she lay on her deathbed, downy hair a soft cloud on her pillow, the callous blinks and bleeps of machinery her only company.

“You’re still here, aren’t you?” she asked.

His head rose from his chest, and he dared speak, “Yes.”

“You’ve followed me all these years?”

“Yes.”

“Well, there’s no sense in hiding anymore.”

By inches, he unfurled a shadowed wing, revealing his blackened form, the sharp contours of bone, and embers of his eyes. Congealed darkness swirled aside, traces of old smoke dissipating into the night.

“Why did you haunt me?”

“To learn of love.”

“And did you?”

“I learned that love and pain and forgiveness are companions in this mortal world.”

“So, they are.” She closed her eyes, breath a murmur, and reached out a hand. “If I could live this life again, I would choose differently, my loyal demon.”

“Forgive me,” he whispered, and with skeletal fingers, careful of his claws, he caressed her hand. The yearned-for touch peeled away the char and ash of his skin, the scars that were his wings, and extinguished the blaze in his eyes. As she exhaled her last breath, he plummeted through heaven’s void, white feathers in flames, skin sloughing its beauty in a trail of ash. A shooting star, he plunged into the sea.

The woman wading in the waves ran to save him and halted at the sight of his seared pinions. Undaunted, she plunged into the surf and seized his hand.

 

***

To read Liz Husebye Hartmann’s winning submission and the honorable mentions for this mega challenge, click here: Carrot Ranch

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Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – The Snow Globe by D. Wallace Peach

The Christmas season has shifted into high gear, and I’m so pleased to reblog The Snow Globe, a short story from my archives that Sally Cronin was kind enough to share. I hope you enjoy it.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

A fabulous story by D.Wallace Peach to bring some romance and mystical magic to Christmas. I know you will love it.

The Snow Globe by D. Wallace Peach

Pixabay image composition.

The Snow Globe

Delores perches at the scuffed counter of Dee’s Diner on Christmas Eve, keeping one bespectacled eye on Angie as the waitress mops the linoleum floor. The sign on the front door has already flipped from “Open” to “Closed,” and the crimson Panhandle sky fades to a duller shade of rose, a single bright star glimmering on the eastern horizon.

“Thanks for closing early, Dee,” the teenager says.

“No problem, honey. I got plans too.”

Angie looks up and smiles, clearly skeptical, but too kind-hearted to ask. It’s no secret Delores lives alone, unmarried, and childless—except for Buster the cat, who’s not particularly festive when it comes to the holidays.

At closing time, sole proprietor, boss lady, and…

View original post 1,768 more words

At the Mirror: Chicken Scratch

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It’s been a busy autumn as I scribble away on my first draft and I’m almost there! In fact, I’m finishing it up today! So bear with me.

I haven’t shared a piece of beautiful writing from a blogger in a while. What better way to break the dry spell than with a piece from Steven Baird.

Chicken Scratch

by Steven Baird

It’s the same, every night. I reach for the dream, and I’m grabby-fingered, grievous.

The dream– no, she — is my beautiful. The woman, alone, in front of a barn, tossing scratch to the chickens. She wears a faded bluey sundress, and it is judiciously short, judicious sassy, cut just above the knees, threadbare and very old. It is 1960’s Flower-Power aphrodisia. She doesn’t care. She loves who she is, and I’m a bystander. I see her from profile: the tilt of her hips, the slow current of her arms, the equid arch of neck. Her hair is long, and it flows like the fire beside a curved river. This is her, and this is her’s.

The light captures every grain…

via Chicken scratch

The Seamaid

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The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo turns to Twitter. I gave it a go…

The Challenge #5: #Twitterflash. In this challenge, you are tasked with writing a complete 99-word story using Twitter. The story can be on any topic and in any genre, as long as it is exactly 99 words. Easy peasy, right? Not so fast…
-Every story must be made up of 11 sentences of exactly 9 words each.
-Each individual sentence should be tweeted, one at a time, for a total of 11 tweets
-Individual sentences are tweet-worthy and contribute to the story as a whole in a meaningful way.

The Seamaid

A mermaid’s sequined tail lures me to the sea
Gulls shrill a warning, I’m headed to a drowning
Lulled by a siren’s song, footprints forsake the sand
Wash away my castles when love sings me home
She is my nixie, nymph of an airless death
Bare toes sink, swallowed by the sea’s lapping tongue
Fingers caress my ankles, beckoning me farther from shore
Entangled am I in floating whorls of unbound hair
Her silver arms are the surge embracing my surrender
A life forlorn abandoned for her wild blue beauty
Yielding to the tides, breathless in my seamaid’s kiss

***

To read D. Avery’s winning Twitterflash, click here: Carrot Ranch